LEVI BRYANT AND THE PERFORMATIVE CONTRADICTION (3): NON-REDUCTIONISTIC REDUCTIONISM

A useful rule of thumb with Bryant is that whenever he refers to Freud or Lacan he is pulling a fast one, there is no intellectual content there, and he knows it. A second rule of thumb is that whenever Bryant does not mention Freud and Lacan, as in the pluralism posts and comments, he is pulling a fast one too. He is glossing over his anti-naturalist commitments. A third rule of thumb is that whenever Bryant mentions both Lacan and naturalism he is presupposing coherence where it does not exist, and hoping you won’t notice. Also, one must not forget that Foucault is an idealist in Levi Bryant’s book, but Lacan is a naturalist!

Bryant has given up the critique of correlationism, preferring to critique anthropocentrism, which  gets to be a synonym for idealist. He then proceeds to give this new bogus concept such an all-encompassing extension that it can include almost all continental philosophy. The corollary is that he can declare anybody he chooses (e.g. Foucault, Latour) to be idealist, and anybody he chooses (including Lacan) to be non-anthropocentric and so naturalist.

Bryant’s naturalism is on any ordinary reading virtually contentless. Even if given content by a very charitable reading, it is very much a promise rather than a result of the present state of research, and rests on a horizon of the unity of science (the unity of physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy – but he needs psychology and sociology as well – hence the empty call for a naturalist Lacanism). This putative “unity” does not describe the sciences as there exist incommensurable paradigms between each of these disciplines and inside each one: even “physics” is not a unified corpus. This unity even supposing that it is conceivable as a future state of our knowledge is typically thought to be achievable by some sort of reductionism (usually physicalist). Bryant has repeatedly denounced reductionism but propounds a reductionist metaphysical research programme.

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